January 13, 2011

Ecology, Natural Resources, Parks members raise red flag over cuts and consolidation

A panel of Federation Ecology, Natural Resources and Parks members raised red flags over proposed cuts in their agencies at a Thursday hearing before the House General Government Appropriations Committee.


Scott Mallery, an Ecology member of Spokane Local 1221, said the reduction in the water rights program is bad for the economy.

A water rights permit “develops the economic growth and development that we need in the community,” Mallery said.

And if lawmakers are looking for places to save money, they can start with cutting Washington Management Service and exempt positions state government, he said.

Mallery said they make up 8.5 percent of the workforce but make up 15 percent of salary costs. Cutting just 15 WMS and exempt positions could save $2.5 million, he said.

And a leaner management structure would save money, too, Mallery said.

“You need to look at streamlining, reducing it and restructuring it,” he said.

Natural Resources:

Weikko Jaross, a forest analyst with the Department of Natural Resources in Olympia and a member of Local 443, voiced concern about the governor’s proposal to move the Natural Heritage Program from DNR to a new superagency, the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The Natural Heritage Program preserves this state’s rare and imperiled plant and animal species and ecosystems.

“What this means to the average citizen of the state is that if they want to recreate, if they want to build, if they want to have that outdoor experience, it is the Natural Heritage Program that helps them in protecting those imperiled, rare plant species and animals,” Jaross said.

The program should remain in DNR, where it’s a natural fit with an agency that manages more than 12 million acres of state forestland, he said.


The governor’s plan to make state parks “self-sustaining” through user fees and no state general fund money may mean the death of the “crown jewel” state parks system.

That’s what Brian Yearout, president of the Federation’s Statewide Parks Local 1466, told the committee.

The state’s 120 parks attract 40 million visits a year and most pay camping fees or contribute when they renew their license tabs.

While some increase in fees may be reasonable, Yearout said, “we believe it is unreasonable to cut off all general funds and rely on user fees only. That could mean the closure of many if not most of our 120 state parks and a vital, affordable family recreational destination.”

“The state is financially strapped,” he added, “but those users value state parks and are also financially strapped.”

The irony is the governor wants to merge parks with other natural resource agencies.

“And if the ‘self-sustaining’ proposal of user fees is not enough and parks close, there won’t be much left to even merge into a new agency,” Yearout said.

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